The person who is truly enlightened has directly experienced the ultimate or absolute nature of life itself. In that revelation, he has seen far beyond the boundaries of the personal self and discovered the universal nature of all his human experience. That explosive realisation liberates the self from the perpetual tyranny of being trapped in a relationship to life that is merely personal.
Enlightenment is a condition in which the individual has come to the end of a fundamentally self-centred relationship to life. Those who directly experience enlightenment find themselves infused with a consciousness that transcends time, a consciousness that was never born and, therefore, is free from death. They experience that which is immortal. They are no longer fundamentally limited by the conditioned human personality that they have exclusively identified with since the body was born.
Does it happen gradually or instantly? It really depends upon the individual; and the only important thing is that it happens. Because as long as we are self-centred, lost in what’s merely personal, we’re not going to be available to manifest the profound and extraordinary evolutionary potential that in most of us lies dormant.
This suffering world is in dire need of truly conscious beings: human beings who know who they are and why they are here. The enlightened condition in no way denies any aspect of our humanity. The condition enlightens it. It means that our perspective dramatically deepens and widens.